Pete Braspenninx of Phyre Forge is a true innovator. He identifies as an artist, with metal as his medium. Three days visiting him left me astounded at his creativity, artistry, and skill. He combines high standards of forging with ingenious artistic vision, creating pieces that, to me, push this craft forwards in leaps and bounds. I am intensely grateful for the opportunity to meet him, learn from him, and get a slow-release dose of inspiration.
Prepare to have your mind blown.
Pete’s table of “sketches”
Drifting a square hole for a wedge joint.
My finished version of the wedge.
A finished piece of Pete’s. Following are some details:
Jerry is one of those local celebrities that brings out the warmth in everyone who meets him. He has been a blacksmith and welder in Kearney, NE since 1957 or so, a period of time during which the craft of blacksmithing underwent a radical change. Being a blacksmith today is nothing like when he began. He calls himself a commercial blacksmith, and specialized in maintaining farm equipment, sharpening plowshares, and generally fixing every metal piece that crossed his path. A true lesson in adaptation, his business survived the industrialization of farm work, and flourished. Nowadays he spends his time forging in a 1950’s era blacksmith shop he built at a local museum and building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Kearney, where he is a founding member and in charge of the building committee.
The following pictures are of tools in his shop, old and build to last. Many of them served an essential task in maintaining life not so long ago, and most are unneeded in our current way of doing things. Kind of makes you wonder about everything we think is so important nowadays…
Line shaft. This powers the Little Giant power hammer, and is waiting to be hooked up to the drill press and grinder.
Foot powered treadle lathe.
Rim shrinker for wagon wheel rims.
A fun little dog Jerry made.
As life flows along in its river, every now and then it hits the rapids. Whether this has a positive or negative cast makes no difference – in a tumble and a rush of chaotic beauty it jumps ahead, bringing us with it. And like it or not, when the foam clears, we are much further downstream than expected. I am in a rapids of my own causing, and boy am I happy to be here.
Yesterday I left Colorado to begin an adventure of unknown length. I am taking my little car Charlie for a drive around the northwestern USA and into Canada, visiting as many blacksmiths along the way as will receive me. For hundreds of years there has been a tradition of blacksmiths leaving their masters and setting out on a journey to increase their knowledge of their craft and the world. Although somewhat unconventionally, I have found myself following a similar trajectory, pulled in by the promise of knowledge and adventure.
So in the following weeks and months I will do my best to revive this overly well-rested blog, and share some glimpses of my travels. Striking the balance between living an experience and taking the time to document it is a continuing struggle for me, one that will play out here. But heck, since a picture tells a thousand words that will save me a lot of time on typing.